Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 5, March 2022

The news you didn’t seek this week…

Radical Roundup

1.Business and transport failing late-night workers as Unite calls for action on safe travel home

Nearly six in ten workers (58 per cent) report that their employers have never provided them with safe transport home after work, a new poll for Unite the union reveals.

The poll also finds that people feel it has become less safe when travelling home at night and that public transport is not a decent option because:

  • there are too few staff (51 per cent)
  • the wait for a bus or train is too long (48 per cent)
  • streets and stations are badly lit (44 per cent) and the services are unreliable (45 per cent).

Unite releases the figures as it steps up its Get Me Home Safely (GMHS) campaign, which is working to improve protection for workers as they journey home from late night work.

2. Strike dates announced for North Somerset bin strike

GMB has announced the dates of industrial action in the North Somerset bin strike.

Almost 100 workers at recycling centres and refuse collection services run by North Somerset Environment Company are set to walk out for six days in April; 12-13, 16 -17 and 21 – 22.

More dates under discussion after last minute talks aimed at averting the strike came to nothing last week. Industrial action is expected to affect 88,000 homes.

Workers are angry after North Somerset Council, who set up the company last year, have only provided funding for a 4.5 per cent pay award over two years.

With inflation running at 7.8 per cent and expected to get even higher, this amounts to a big real terms pay cut.  

Tim Northover, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “We’re sad that it’s come to this point, but this can’t go on forever.

“Members made their views clear a few weeks ago when they gave us the mandate to take strike action, and we were hopeful that the council would see sense and make a serious offer.”

3. Petrol stations facing disruption as workers fight for a fair wage from ‘filthy rich’ Exxon at Southampton oil refinery         

Petrol station and airport fuel supplies are facing disruption as workers at Exxon’s Southampton oil refinery fight for a fair wage from their “filthy rich” employer.

Around 100 workers, who make up a third of the contractors at the Fawley Refinery, will strike on 8 April, 25 April and 6 May, with more strikes to be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.

Fawley supplies a sixth of petrol stations nationwide and all airports.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Exxon is filthy rich, making vast sums from high energy prices, including £6.25 billion in 2021 alone, yet is colluding with these employers to reduce the workers’ incomes.

“They have no business whatsoever tabling a pathetic pay offer that is in fact a cut to wages, and absolutely not when RPI inflation is running at 8.2 per cent and expected to climb higher.

“Unite’s top priority is our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and our Fawley membership will have the union’s 100 per cent support in their fight for a pay rise that reflects the cost of living.”

4. Scottish Tory leader “on borrowed time” after Johnson resignation U-turn

Responding to Douglas Ross’ comments that the Prime Minister should stay in post even if he is fined for breaking his own lockdown rules with parties at Downing St, after initially calling for him to quit, SNP Depute Westminster Leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “Douglas Ross has shattered the last of any credibility he may have had. Having marched his Holyrood group up to the top of the hill demanding Boris Johnson’s resignation, he has left himself and his MSPs looking utterly ridiculous.

“He is a lame duck leader, and is now on borrowed time as head of the Tory branch office in Scotland.

“Just a month or so ago he was adamantly calling for Boris Johnson to be removed from Downing Street over his repeated rule-breaking– yet now he thinks he should carry on in post even if that rule-breaking is confirmed with a police fine.

“It’s as if he thinks we’ll all just forget that he submitted a letter of no-confidence in the Prime Minister just weeks ago.”

5. Free school meals to all secondary school pupils – Plaid Cymru council election pledge

Plaid Cymru Local Authorities will commit to the aim of extending universal Free School Meals to include secondary school pupils during the next council term, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS has said.

Adam Price was speaking ahead of his keynote speech to his party’s Spring Conference.

The Co-Operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government commits to £200m to deliver free school meals for all primary school children – with the roll-out expected to begin in September.

However, Mr Price announced today that his party will “take the policy further” and that Plaid Cymru-led councils would “commit to setting the goal and begin immediately planning” to extend universal Free School Meals to all secondary school pupils within the next five years.

6. Fire and rehire is a cruel, outdated, Dickensian practice that should be consigned to the scrapheap of history, says GMB Union

GMB Union has responded to Minister Paul Scully’s comments on fire and rehire in Parliament, after the government announced a new statutory code in what it says is an effort to clamp down on the practice.

Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, said: “Fire and rehire is a cruel, outdated, Dickensian working practice that should be consigned to the scrapheap of history.

“GMB’s members in Valeo, York, face the cruel injustice of fire and rehire right now.

“We have campaigned for it to be made illegal for years; politicians of all stripes agree with us, as do three quarters of the public – even the Prime Minister has condemned it.

“While we will look at the detail when it comes, our members are firm that a slap on the wrist won’t be enough. But this looks like futile tinkering and the scourge of fire and rehire must be barred from the start.

“We urgently need clear legislation to outlaw this abhorrent tactic which, unless checked, will continue to wreck lives across the UK.”

7. Staff discontent shows government must act on NHS pay, says UNISON

Commenting on the latest annual NHS staff survey published today, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “On any measure these figures are alarming. The scale of staff disillusionment and concerns about standards of care should be a huge blue flashing light for the government.

“A dramatic drop in satisfaction with pay in just a year bears out everything unions have warned. Without an urgent and significant wage rise, NHS staff will simply walk for better pay and less stress elsewhere, which is a disaster for patient care.

“But unhappiness extends across the board. Staff are feeling less valued, their work is increasingly unrecognised and they’re not allowed to progress in their jobs.

“The pandemic backlog in the NHS will take years to fix. If staff are leaving in droves, it will take longer, leaving patients in pain and distress and causing the public to lose faith in the NHS even further.

8. Hard up NHS staff face a whopping £90 million car parking bill from Friday after the Conservatives reintroduced charges

Midlands – £18 million

North West – £17 million

North East and Yorks – £16 million

South East – £11 million

East of England £10 million

London – £8 million

South West – £8 million

Figures from NHS Digital show in the financial year 2019/20 – the year before charges were lifted for the pandemic – health workers paid £90.1 million in car parking fees.

Workers in the Midlands paid out the most, forking out £18 million in the year, followed by the North West (£17 million), then the North East and Yorkshire (£16 million).

Following sustained pressure from GMB Union, the Government suspended car parking charges for health workers during the pandemic.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “It’s almost like the Health Secretary has a personal vendetta against NHS staff.

“During the worst cost of living crisis in a generation he’s hell-bent on forcing them to swallow yet another real terms pay cut.

9. Strike action continues as GE Aviation accused of ‘dirty tricks’ in Gloucester pay dispute

Workers at Gloucester’s Hurricane Road GE Aviation factory will be striking every Friday until their call for a fair wage is honoured, Unite the union has said.

Multinational GE Aviation has been accused of `dirty tricks’ in an attempt to undermine the workers.

The 90-plus workers are employed by GE’s subsidiary Dowty Propellers.

The workers have rejected a two year pay offer worth just 4.5 per cent which, with the actual level of inflation (retail price index) standing at 8.2 per cent, amounts to a real terms pay cut.

10. Strike action at 27 universities begins as survey shows most UK university staff considering leaving the sector

University staff at 27 universities have begun a five-day walkout over cuts to pensions and deteriorating pay and conditions.

The UK-wide action started last week when staff at 40 universities downed tools for five days. This is the third round of strike action this academic year. Staff recently took up to 10 days of strike action over three weeks, from Monday 14 February to Wednesday 2 March, and previously went on strike for three days in December 2021.

UCU also warned of a staff exodus from UK universities after two thirds of university staff said they are considering leaving the sector. The finding comes from a new UCU report ‘UK Higher Education – a workforce in crisis’ based on a survey of almost 7,000 university staff at over 100 institutions.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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